The Lib Dems are today at loggerheads over cuts, with a split emerging between the party in Westminster and grassroots members in local council chambers up and down the country. A letter to the Times (£) signed by 88 Lib Dem leaders (17 council leaders and 71 group leaders) lambasts the government over local authority cuts – in particular Eric Pickles, saying:
“What has been delivered is a difficult cuts package across all government departments but clearly the most severe is to local government. These cuts will have an undoubted impact on all frontline council services, including care services to the vulnerable.”
“Rather than assist the country’s recovery by making savings to the public in a way that can protect local economies and the front line, the cuts are structured in such a way that they will do the opposite.”
This is the clearest indication yet of the perilous position that Nick Clegg finds himself in with his own party. Local Lib Dem councillors are on the front line of these cuts, and are forced to explain to angry local people why their party is (in part at least) responsible for them. With local elections across the country in May, many of the signatories of this letter will be fearful of losing their deats.
Whilst backbench dissent in the commons is currently limited, it will certainly come as MPs begin to worry about losing their seats, as they certainly will on current polling evidence. After a likely wipeout for the Lib Dems in May, backbench revolt will be much more visible.